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April 28, 2004

Behavior, Daily Care

Question from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada:

Where can I find help to get through to my teenage on who appears to have that universal illusion of invincibility? No one can get through his "protective shell". We have tried everything we know and still he refuses to check his blood sugars regularly, refuses to change the injection site according to schedule and, generally, tries to ignore the fact that he is condemning himself to severe health problems and premature death. He is a gifted child, although his teachers refused to recommend a special program with advanced curriculum when I requested it five years ago. Recently, he scored in the top 98.6% of his age group nationwide in an intelligence quotient (IQ) test administered as part of an extensive test for ADD. He continues to get mediocre grades because he is totally bored with the curriculum. Is there any kind of specialized program, peer group, or any other avenue that we might pursue?

Answer:

You sound very worried about your son. It is not at all uncommon for teenagers to struggle with the overwhelming and incessant demands of the daily diabetes regimen. Diabetes can become so overwhelming so quickly. Telling teenagers that their lack of attention to their diabetes will lead to dire health outcomes can make them angry and/or fearful. However, it never changes their behavior. In fact, it often makes them less likely to engage in the very behaviors such threats are designed to encourage.

Why don’t you sit down with your son and ask him what aspects of his diabetes regimen he’d like you to take over for him? Perhaps he would like you to do his morning blood sugar check and injection. Perhaps he’d like you to bring his meter to him when it’s time to check numbers. He may have many ideas about what you can do to help him.

You mentioned that your son was evaluated for ADD and that he is also gifted. If he does struggle with inattention or distractibility, he will need more support around diabetes-specific tasks than other teens might. It could be helpful to have him describe to you all of the things that get in the way of his doing his diabetes tasks on a daily basis. The two of you may learn ways of overcoming these barriers once you understand them.

JWB